Psychiatrist: baby-killer suspect “was insane”

1 month ago KTVZ

By Jeff Forward

Click here for updates on this story

    FREMONT, Nebraska (Fremont Tribune) — A 21-year-old Fremont man accused of stabbing a 4-month-old infant to death in 2021 will learn his fate within the next several months.

Alexander Hernandez, 21, of Fremont, was present for an evidentiary hearing in District 6 Court in Fremont on Friday, Feb. 17, during which five witnesses testified about the night of Jan. 8, 2021, when the defendant was alleged to have stabbed his own cousin more than 20 times, resulting in her death.

The young child, whom the Fremont Tribune is not identifying by name, was being cared for by Hernandez’s two parents while the infant’s own parents sought treatment for substance abuse issues. The baby girl was stabbed more than 20 times in the chest and torso as she slept, and died by 10 p.m. Jan. 8, 2021, after being transported to a medical facility.

After a quick investigation by Fremont Police Department detectives, Hernandez was arrested and charged with suspicion of first-degree murder, a class 1A felony, which does not result in a death sentence that a class 1 felony would; a child abuse charge, a class 1A felony, which would result in a sentence of 20 years to life, and his weapon charge, a class 2 felony, would result in a sentence of one to 50 years.

However, Hernandez could see no prison time because he is using a defense of guilt by reason of insanity, a claim which Friday’s hearing was focused on.

Over more than five hours of courtroom testimony on Friday, five witnesses – including both Hernandez’s parents – testified to District Court Judge Geoffrey Hall about the night of the infant’s death, the six months preceding the incident as well as a mental-health evaluation into Hernandez’s state of mind at the time of the incident.

What emerged from the testimony was a story of a young man who quit his job in April 2020 fearing he would contract the COVID-19 virus before slowly descending into poorer and worsening mental health conditions over six months before the fatal attack occurred.

According to his mother and father, Hernandez had lost all his friends by July 2020, and was secluding himself inside his bedroom, often not leaving his home for days at a time. He also exhibited other symptoms of a mental health crisis, his parents testified, including insomnia, poor eating habits, long periods without talking, fear of unknown people, routinely clutching his head, rampant headaches and times when he paced around his home with seemingly no purpose.

Hernandez is undergoing a bench trial, which means there is no jury present to hear testimony or determine innocence or guilt. He has been incarcerated at the Saunders County Jail in Wahoo since his arrest in 2021.

He will next appear in court at 2 p.m., April 13, to learn the outcome of Friday’s hearing.

His fate will be determined by Hall, who will now decide on whether or not Hernandez was insane at the time of the crime based on the evidence presented in court on Friday.

If Hernandez is deemed insane, he cannot be found guilty of the allegations and instead would undergo psychological assessments to determine whether he is a danger to himself or society. He could be sentenced to a state mental health facility for care.

Whether or not Hernandez did stab the 4-month-old girl to death did not seem to be contested, as both the state Attorney General’s Office prosecuting attorney—Corey O’Brien—as well as Hernandez’s defense attorney—Omaha-based lawyer Nedu Igbokwe—admitted in comments to the court that Alexander Hernandez was responsible for the girl’s death.

“There is not much of a contest that Mr. Hernandez is the perpetrator of the crime,” O’Brien said in his opening statement. “Nor is there much of a contest that he met the definition of insanity.”

In his closing statements, Igbokwe told the court and Hall that a crime occurred, and, “That crime was committed by Mr. Hernandez.”

“At the time of the offense, Alexander Hernandez was legally insane and is not guilty by reason of insanity,” Igbokwe said. “We believe Dr. (Klaus) Hartmann found Alex was legally insane at the time of the crime, as did a second psychiatrist. We do also believe that by Nebraska statute that we intend to present the defense of insanity.”

Igbokwe’s and O’Brien’s comments about the mental state of Alexander Hernandez were confirmed during the day’s testimony by state-licensed psychiatrist, Dr. Klaus Hartmann, who has done insanity evaluations of criminal suspects for more than a dozen years for the state of Nebraska.

Hartmann told the court and judge that in his professional opinion – after months of analysis of Hernandez’s medical records, police reports and in-person interviews – that, yes, he diagnosed Alexander Hernandez as being insane at the time of the crime.

“I formed an opinion: I do believe he qualified for the insanity defense. He was insane,” Hartmann said.

When questioned by O’Brien about whether he asked Hernandez if he had killed the infant, and why he would have done so, Hartmann continued his explanations of his diagnosis.

Hartmann stated Hernandez suffered from a schizo-psychotic disorder, which led to delusions and “command hallucinations” in which he believed drug cartel figures would harm him or his family.

“(Alexander) felt his family would be killed if he did not commit this act,” Hartmann said of the reason Hernandez gave him for stabbing the infant. “He told me that he loved (the infant girl) like she was his own, so this (killing) was totally unexpected and uncharacteristic.”

Hartmann, and later testimony from Alexander’s mother, revealed that the 21-year-old suspect had been hearing voices in his head for months, something he kept secret because he believed if he revealed that to others, he may be harmed or tortured.

“These were ‘command hallucinations. He did not have those before (the killing). It was just on that particular day. He was in double jeopardy. He had both delusions and hallucinations,” Hartmann explained. “And that makes it much more difficult to resist ‘command hallucination.’ It is unreasonable to stab a small infant 20 times in order to kill a small child. He had no history of fighting or violence that I could obtain. (This) was totally out of character for him.”

During the court proceedings, Hernandez sat silently, clad in a dark purple dress shirt and very loose fitting black trousers.

At times he seemed to find humor in the proceedings, turning to look at his parents and others in the audience while smiling and laughing. He drank a Dr. Pepper soda pop for much of the hearing while at times staring intently at the prosecuting attorney team of three lawyers.

The first witness to testify was Hernandez’s father, Juan Hernandez. Claiming he was unable to speak English fluently enough to understand questions, Juan Hernandez used an interpreter for his entire testimony.

On three occasions, he was chastised by the judge after he seemingly understood a question from the prosecution and began to answer before the translator had translated the question in to Spanish. Later, during the playing of a police body camera video from the night of the incident, Juan was seen complying with police commands and speaking in English.

Juan Hernandez said the 4-month-old baby arrived in their household sometime in October or November 2020 at the request of his in-laws. He said his son Alexander was happy to have the baby in the home, and never complained about the infant nor exhibited anger toward the child.

During his testimony, Juan Hernandez admitted his son, Alexander, was experiencing mental health issues and had sought assorted treatments for his worsening condition from July 2020 through when the infant was killed on Jan. 8, 2021.

“Yes, he was having troubles. He could not sleep, his head hurt. But my wife could talk about that more,” Juan said of his son. “(Alexander) didn’t want to go out. If anyone would get close to him, he would get upset. Something in his mind wasn’t right. He had been like that many months (before the killing)…I suppose six months.”

The night of the infant’s death, Juan Hernandez said he was watching soccer on television while his wife was on the telephone talking to friends. It was between 8:40 p.m. and 9 p.m. when the stabbing occurred.

“I was watching TV and all of the sudden, I heard the baby was coughing,” Juan recalled. “I just went to the bedroom because I thought she had woken up. She was in her crib. I turned on the light and saw her hand was on her heart like a fist. I thought, ‘what is going on?’ So I moved her hand and I saw the baby had blood.”

Juan Hernandez said he immediately grabbed the infant, ran to the kitchen where he gave the child to his wife, who then called 9-1-1 for help. At that moment, Juan said he saw Alexander staring blankly nearby and engaged in a brief struggle with his son, who was holding a bloody knife.

Gisella Hernandez, Alexander’s mother, also testified at length on Friday. She detailed months of harrowing mental health issues exhibited by Alexander beginning in roughly July of 2020. Gisella said she tried to get her son medical and mental health care from a variety of providers, but a list of stumbling blocks – notably the lack of in-person appointments due to the COVID-19 pandemic – hampered his treatment.

Alexander, his mother told the court, began to suffer from insomnia, lack of appetite, headaches, chest pains and numbness in his arms over a six-month period before the killing of the infant.

On Dec. 6, 2020, she said Alexander was found crying hysterically, after which she asked him what was wrong.

“He said, ‘I feel really, really sad,” Gisella recalled.

Over the next month, the family tried to get Alexander mental health help. In early December, she scheduled an appointment, but her son declined to go. A family holiday trip to Chicago revealed more mental health issues, including Alexander revealing to an uncle he was hearing voices in his head telling him to do violent acts, his mother added.

Upon the family’s return to Fremont in early January, Gisella said she had Alexander do a telehealth phone assessment with a doctor, who prescribed anti-depression medications before instructing the family to take Alexander to the emergency room for urgent treatment.

But, he refused.

“(Alexander) said he didn’t feel safe (at the emergency room),” Gisella said of the Jan. 5 visit. “Alexander said, ‘I don’t feel safe here…I need to go home. He said people were going to hurt him.”

The night of the killing, Gisella said her son had been chastised by his father – Juan – for playing too many video games. He decided to go to sleep at 8:30 p.m., she added.

After Alexander was accused of stabbing the infant, Gisella recalled the moment her husband rushed the bleeding baby to her.

“When I saw my husband with the baby, I called the ambulance. We kept talking to Alexander, but he was not listening,” she said.

Following the testimony of all the witnesses, both the defense and prosecution offered closing statements.

O’Brien called the incident, “an unspeakable tragedy on multiple levels.”

“In my career as a prosecutor, I don’t think I’ve seen such an act against an innocent child. To see a spontaneous act of violence against a child…there aren’t many parallels in not only Nebraska, but other states,” O’Brien said. “I don’t think there is any dispute beyond a reasonable doubt that Alexander Hernandez committed the offenses charged. I think it is incumbent on this court at this juncture, given the statute, to make a determination that Mr. Hernandez did commit the offense and the finding that he is not responsible due to the reason of insanity.”

Please note: This content carries a strict local market embargo. If you share the same market as the contributor of this article, you may not use it on any platform.
Continue reading...

Read On "KTVZ"
More News On "KTVZ"
25 days ago - Alameda County landlords owed thousands in rent, call for an end to eviction moratorium 25 days ago - Monday Feb. 27 COVID-19 update: 4 deaths in Douglas County 25 days ago - State basketball preview: 6A, 5A tournaments return to Weber State’s Dee Events Center this week 25 days ago - One Wealth Advisors LLC invests in Enovix Co. (NASDAQ:ENVX) 26 days ago - Uncommon length makes Pleasant Valley’s 2-3 a no-scoring zone 26 days ago - Study: Back-to-back hurricanes likely to come more often 26 days ago - What’s Happening Vegas? – March 2023 26 days ago - Osceola County community events calendar for 03/01/2023 26 days ago - North Adams, East Clinton, Unioto still alive 26 days ago - North Korea holds rare meeting on farming amid food shortage 26 days ago - 'Dilbert,' Scott Adams lose distributor over racist remarks 26 days ago - Soap or phone call? Colo. lawmakers want to make prison phone calls free 26 days ago - EXPLAINER: Windstorm was likely a derecho. What is that? 26 days ago - What's Happening in Las Vegas for this Year's March Madness 26 days ago - Outsmarting humans just one step for AI video game players 26 days ago - 'Cocaine Bear' gets high with $23.1M, 'Ant-Man' sinks fast 26 days ago - 'Everything Everywhere All at Once' dominates at SAG Awards 26 days ago - Digital Transformation: The Revolutionary Impact of Technology in Africa 26 days ago - ShotSpotter (NASDAQ:SSTI) Price Target Increased to $44.00 by Analysts at Lake Street Capital 26 days ago - Season 3 of Outer Banks disappoints critics; watch only if you were a die-hard fan of earlier seasons, they suggest 26 days ago - Board Game and Card Game Market Size in 2023 with [ STATISTICS FIGURES] Future Development Status and Forecast up to 2029 26 days ago - Tabletop Gaming Market Size in 2023 NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT and Latest Innovation in Analytics Sector till 2029 26 days ago - Celona Offers Most Comprehensive Private 5G Solutions for U.S. and Foreign Markets 26 days ago - ShotSpotter, Inc. (NASDAQ:SSTI) to Post Q1 2023 Earnings of ($0.03) Per Share, Northland Capmk Forecasts 26 days ago - Asian shares track Wall Street decline on hot economic data 27 days ago - Final Nebraska high school swimming and diving season leaders 27 days ago - Girls BB: Saluting Section Champions 27 days ago - Tens of thousands protest Mexico electoral reforms 27 days ago - Third finals appearance the charm for Hortonville's Skebba; Stoffel makes history for Appleton North 27 days ago - Medical Blades Market Business Opportunities, Top Players and Forecast 2030 27 days ago - Central College Dutch Sports Update – 2/26/2023 27 days ago - Buhro takes individual crown as Oak Harbor earns sectional championship 27 days ago - Nebraska conservatives set sights on education takeover – Associated Press 27 days ago - Back-to-back: Minico successfully defends 4A state wrestling championship 27 days ago - Here are Saturday's high school sports results 27 days ago - Farewell, Fontana: NASCAR's last weekend at a racing gem 27 days ago - Kansas Democrats pick Repass as their new chair despite campaign baggage 28 days ago - Tesla’s Global Engineering HQ in Palo Alto — Opening Party Highlights (Pics, Videos, Quotes) 28 days ago - San Ann'as Pizza and Mexican celebrating 45th anniversary 28 days ago - L.A. on the Record: The Senate takes one more look at Garcetti 28 days ago - Dodge County real estate transfers 28 days ago - How UNL instructors are tackling the emergence of ChatGPT and other AI in higher education 28 days ago - Some Democratic-led states seek to bolster voter protections 28 days ago - Casey Vaughan: Only rain should go down a storm drain 28 days ago - Nebraska conservatives set sights on education takeover 28 days ago - West Michigan Conference basketball: Girls and boys roundup from Feb. 24, 2023 – CatchMark Sports 28 days ago - Jeff Yost: Look Upstream 28 days ago - Brokers Set Expectations for ShotSpotter, Inc.'s Q4 2023 Earnings (NASDAQ:SSTI) 28 days ago - Building affordable homes in Fremont 28 days ago - Local chef to open farm-to-table eatery in Fremont 28 days ago - Jeanna Wilcoxen Murder: Where Is Jeremiah Connelly Now? 28 days ago - More than 70 soldiers killed in Burkina Faso, extremists say 28 days ago - Clyde Council to consider citizens raising chickens in town 28 days ago - Wilhelm: More on Jacksons, Willow Hill and efforts to share insight into African American history 28 days ago - STATE HIGH SCHOOL WRESTLING TOURNAMENTS: Crowded at the top ... Trojans third, but well within striking distance in 5A tournament 28 days ago - Bulldog wrestlers have solid day at state 28 days ago - High school boys basketball: 6A/5A second round recap 28 days ago - Head-To-Head Analysis: Amprius Technologies (NYSE:AMPX) & Novanta (NASDAQ:NOVT) 28 days ago - Here are Friday's high school sports results 28 days ago - It’s Official: California Will Be Tesla’s Engineering & AI Headquarters
free geoip